Bus left right at 6 am for 6 hr ride to Tucuman, main transport hub for everywhere in N it seems. First, lots of vineyards, then mainly a wide, dry valley with short, drought hardy accacia and other trees/shrubs between high, rocky mtn ranges. Once in awhile where theres apparently more ground water, wonderful fields of huge clumps ot bunch grasses spread out and fill betw the shrubby trees. The bushes actually remind me of sagebrush...the landscape appears to me like a combination of W.Africa, MT, and Baja CA, ha! The mtns tho are quite covered with the bunch grasses but much shorter and cactuses of diff kinds, some similar to cordon in MX. Really very beautiful combination...the wildlife we see from the bus is limited to parakeet-type birds...we have heard/seen them all along the way in great flocks. Their squawking in mornings and eves when they leave/return from foraging is very noticeable, sometimes almost deafening. In Cafayate they did hang in town more since the mulberry trees are loaded w/ fruit right now. Being springtime we see lots of bright green, new growth especially noticeable in the vineyard grapevines and flowers of all kinds, esp neat on cactuses. People in town seem to prefer roses more than any other specific kind, esp shrub type ones.
After climbing over a pass and down thru small town in mtns, Tafi del Valle (see pics) we began down a steep, narrow road thru heavily overgrown (apparently clearcut once) forested area w/ stream and lots of elderberry, sumac, ash, and vines plus wild canna...must have alot of water at times. Then into the flats again and lots of agric...great fields that look like sugar cane but might be lillies? can't imagine why lillies but doesn't really look like sugar cane either so?? Closer to Tucuman and there are more citrus orchards, veggie fields, and then leaving Tucuman tobacco, squash, oats, and they appear to be harvesting right now (wheat?), and cattle of course! This is Argentina after all! Once we get to Catamarca 100s of acres of citrus and 1000s of acres of olive trees stretch to the horizon. We get to La Rioja and search for over an hour chking 5 diff places and walking alot in the dark before we finally get to Imperial Hotel where the guy takes pity on us and reduces his price to 240p (we were heading back to the bus station if we couldn't find anything at least this 'cheap' = $60 US!!).